Definition: Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a species of coliform bacteria that lives in the lower intestine of warm bloodied animals.
Why we monitor E. coli: Scientists use E. coli as an indicator of water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. The bacteria associated with fecal matter (not just E. coli but many other types of bacteria and viruses) can make people sick if they come in contact with contaminated water. Monitoring for E. coli helps protect water for recreation and drinking water.
What influences E. coli: E. coli enters water ways when fecal matter from warm blooded animals goes into water
bodies. While wild animal waste going into lakes and streams cause naturally low levels
of E. coli, the problem comes when too much untreated domestic animal or human waste
enters water bodies. Problems can arise if waste from septic tanks, wastewater treatment
plants, or animal production for food is not properly treated before it enters water
There are two methodologies to monitor E.coli. The advanced method IDEXX, is the official Standard Operating Procedure for monitoring E. coli in the state of Utah. This requires access to an approved facility that has the equipment to process an IDEXX sample. The Easygel method is another method that provides quantitative results, but does not require special equipment. The UWW program coordinator and the local watershed coordinator will work with the volunteers to identify the appropriate method needed for the data quality.